BasCon 2017 strengthens heritage and culture

Community empowerment in Basar

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Society

February 28, 2017

/ By / Kolkata



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The Galo tribe of Basar celebrates the Mopin festival of harvest

The Galo tribe of Basar celebrates the Mopin festival of harvest

The silent forests in Basar, in Arunachal Pradesh, saw a coming together of locals and visitors to celebrate the Galo harvest festival and a cultural exchange through the arts, keeping alive traditions through time.

In a post-modern world, where tales of sacred forests and worship of Mother Nature seem like relics of an ancient era, the quaint Basar in north-eastern India is labouring to keep sacrosanct the values of harmonious community living in line with all that nature provides. Through Gumin Rego Kilaju, or GRK’s initiative of Arunachal Pradesh’s first ever artist residency programme, photographers, writers, filmmakers, musicians and painters got together with local communities to respect and preserve the unique heritage of Basar in the time of the Galo harvest festival, Mopin. The local community was involved directly in organising the festival and putting up stalls to showcase culinary delicacies from the region.

As the artist residency came to an end, a two-day celebration on February 22 and 23 was held, with February 22 kicking off Mopin, and saw ceremonious chanting, folk dances, music and heavy feasting. Parliamentary Secretary of Tourism, PD Sona inaugurated the festival as a celebration of traditional culture and contemporary arts through community engagement. He stated, “This is an event with the most unique theme, traditional and cultural heritage,” adding, “Living in harmony with nature is the need of the hour and GRK’s initiative is a wonderful example of it.”

After invoking and pleasing the deities for a good harvest, with Donyi – the representation of the sun, in particular – this animist community was treated to Riken Ngomle’s play in the evening. Titled, ‘Tani La Mopin’, it showcased the story of the origin of Mopin, with participation from around 30 locals, who found a platform to explore themselves as performers and storytellers. A group of local women, who were enjoying themselves with rice cakes and a glass of poka or tradional rice beer, said, “This is a great initiative. Our children, who are otherwise quite shy, are there on stage today, appreciating and expressing our history,” adding, “Youngsters are wanting to do away with traditions and move away to the cities but with our traditional harvest festival turning into a big event with a stage, it is a unique way to bring back the relevance of these beliefs into their consciousness.”

The women's collective found a space to share their products and story

The women’s collective found a space to share their products and story

The handicraft and food stalls at the venue, as a space for community empowerment, with a showcase of the local crafts with bamboo and specialities such as mithun paste and poka available. In a stall by a women’s self help group, Hanah, from Nyigem Village, founding member, Jumban Basar shared, “We grow organic fruits and vegetables and have organised ourselves to be empowered,” adding, “Here, we have found a space to sell our products and create more awareness.”

The next day, February 23, traditional fishing, which was happening after years, was held in a showcase of the shared community spirit and coordination. Viewers were enthralled as bamboo structures, sedatives for fish and other preparations were made by the young and old alike, many of whom were excited to be fishing in this way for the first time. Performances by Itanagar-based band ‘Yesterdrive’ and musicians such as Mumbai-based Neel Adhikari and Zico, and Delhi-based band ‘Menwhopause’ marked the closing of the two day festivities. ‘Indian Idol’ finalist, Jeli Kayi was the final act of the evening, who entertained Basar well into the night.

Bringing together cultures

Musician Neel Adhikari delighted locals while performing with Zico

Musician Neel Adhikari delighted locals while performing with Zico

Seven artists had worked for three weeks, since the beginning of the month, taking inspiration from the surroundings and rich heritage of Basar and the Galo tribe that inhabits it. Poet Raghavendra Madhu, founder of the collective Poetry Couture, was among the artists and his stay in Basar resulted in poems that highlighted the discord and distance between life in the city and in the community of Basar. Delhi-based French musician, Paul Schneiter, who collaborated with local women, children and shamans to create soundscapes with ambient influences from Basar, shared his sentiments, “The weeks spent at the residency has given a space for cultural exchange and for me as well as the locals to know and understand at least a little about each other’s culture.”

GRK, the organisers that came in collaboration with Pheonix Rising, had the BasCon chairman, Jummar Basar, stating, “We want to take forward the initiatives of living harmoniously with nature and the process of creating opportunities.” Echoing the spirit of the festivities and the idea behind organising the same, Basar reminded us of the significance of confluence of ideas and efforts making our society a better place to live in and to trace and nurture the roots of traditions and cultures.

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